Semantics and Recovery

by MB


I've been struggling for awhile to understand what it means to be "recovered" or "in recovery" from my eating disorder. I assumed I would wake up one morning and be recovered, freed of obsessions, someone who thought about food as much or as little as the person to her right.

I was wrong.

What it comes down to, I think, is that I was waiting for something else - a cue or smoke signal or whisper from a doctor, anything really, to TELL ME I was recovered. For someone on the outside to look in and evaluate my life, to give me permission even, to go on. This process of introspection and research has been about letting go of all of my expectations and realizing that I get to - I have to - do it for myself.

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On not noticing the moments, by Marya Hornbacher

I don’t remember when I stopped noticing—stopped noticing every mirror, every window, every scale, every fast-food restaurant, every diet ad, every horrifying model. And I don’t remember when I stopped counting, or when I stopped caring what size my pants were, or when I started ordering what I wanted to eat and not what seemed “safe,” or when I could sit comfortably reading a book in my kitchen without noticing I was in my kitchen until I got hungry—or when I started just eating when I got hungry, instead of questioning it, obsessing about it, dithering and freaking out, as I’d done for nearly my whole life.

I don’t remember exactly when recovery took hold, and went from being something I both fought and wanted, to being simply a way of life. A way of life that is, let me tell you, infinitely more peaceful, infinitely happier, and infinitely more free than life with an eating disorder. And I wouldn’t give up this life of freedom for the world.

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On the moments that define recovery, from Choosing Raw

"I didn't wake up one morning and find myself suddenly and irrevocably freed of the obsessions, the anxieties, the urge to express pain through bony ridges and sharp edges. Like most people in recovery, I went through a turbulent process of detachment, a letting go of the habits that had come to define my existence. It grew easier with time, but I didn't lessen my grip without a fight.

[She goes on to differentiate between the emotional and spiritual tracks of recovery.]

There were some defining moments along the way: the day I put away my scale. The day I bought bigger clothing. The day I ate something fried, or something sweet, or something processed, and didn't lacerate myself later for it. The day I started to let go of arbitrary rules and regulations, the false little systems of behavior (like food combining) that had created, for me, an infrastructure wherein I was never allowed to indulge too much.

There are these pivotal moments, these crucial experiences that show us how far we've come. In that sense, it is possible to delineate a “before” and an “after” in the recovery process. But my point is that the process is fluid and shifting and extended, a road you travel always, not a boundary you step across one day."